Growth Hacking Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide

It’s virtually annoying for many who have heard about it 1,000’s of occasions.  And, it’s complicated for individuals who don’t know what it’s.

Prefer it or not, growth hacking is occurring.

And, it’s the rationale we get to see a couple of new startups, every year, with completely ridiculous development charges.

Like Fb…


…or, extra lately, Uber.


Development hacking has solely been round for a couple of years, but it surely’s already catching hearth. Each startup is searching for development hackers.

The reason being apparent: they too need to develop ridiculously quick, and purchase hundreds of thousands of customers and dollars in income.

However, what does progress hacking even imply?

It’s time to reply that query as soon as and for all. I’ll even present you learn how to do it.


I feel I’ve already accomplished a reasonably good job at explaining this some time in the past, in mydefinitive information to progress hacking, however right here’s a fast reminder.

The phrase is barely 5 years outdated.

Sean Ellis coined it, in 2010, when attempting to give you a brand new job description. Sean is the OG (unique development hacker).

He helped numerous startups obtain accelerated progress (for instance, Dropbox) as a guide.

Nevertheless, each time he left a startup to pursue new ventures, he would have a troublesome time discovering a substitute.

Somebody who was in control of rising the startup. He went by a whole bunch of functions every time, all outlining a job for entrepreneurs.

However, pure entrepreneurs couldn’t do that job.

Trendy software program merchandise are totally completely different from conventional merchandise and so is their distribution.

Entrepreneurs felt they needed to take into account budgets, bills, conversions, and so on.

A development marketer doesn’t care about any of these items. Sean, in his personal phrases,was in search of “a person whose true north is growth”.

As development is the make-or-break metric for startups (both they develop quick sufficient or they die), that’s the one metric that a progress marketer cares about.

An engineer is usually a progress hacker, simply as a lot as a marketer can. What issues is their focus.

As a result of startup tradition, they usually have to make use of analytical, cheap, inventive and progressive methods to exponentially develop their firm’s buyer base.

That’s the one factor a progress hacker does.

To actually perceive what development hacking can obtain, and what your mindset must be, if you wish to apply the identical ideas to your online business, I’ll present you a couple of examples of progress hacking carried out proper.


Development hacking can doubtlessly be performed offline.  For instance, McDonald’s popping up at each interstate freeway exit within the 1950’s could be thought of development hacking.

They realized that interstate highways have been gonna be massive, in order that they confirmed up the place they knew prospects can be in nice portions.

But, this pretty new idea is usually utilized on this planet of startups. They don’t have large advertising budgets, to allow them to’t depend on Tremendous Bowl advertisements or Occasions Sq. billboards.

That’s why they have to discover cheaper methods to market themselves.

What they typically do have is a very scalable product.

Contemplate Dropbox, for instance. What their cloud storage service supplies is mainly simply disk house on servers, accessible by way of the web.

They will at all times purchase or hire extra servers to offer more room for brand new customers.

Or Uber. The taxi alternative service depends on common individuals, utilizing their very own automobiles, to choose up others at location A and convey them safely to location B – with the fee is funneled by means of the app.

With over 250 million vehicles on the highway in the USA, that is additionally very scalable. They supply the app, which will be downloaded an infinite variety of occasions and used, through the online.  The customers present the remaining.

A conventional product, like cleaning soap, shouldn’t be very scalable. Each time you run out of cleaning soap, it’s a must to purchase new cleaning soap.

However, each time one other person indicators as much as Fb, your expertise will get higher.

Plus, the way in which that the product works permits it to market itself. Should you use an Uber to go to your buddy’s home on Friday evening they usually ask you the way you bought there, you say: “I took an Uber.”

Naturally, the phrase spreads. For those who like the concept and have pals who may benefit from utilizing the service (along with you benefiting from your pals being on the platform), you’re very more likely to counsel it.

That’s how progress hacking makes use of word-of-mouth on an enormous scale, in an effort to obtain the exponential development charges that we’ve seen.

Alright, time to take a look at some examples of startups which have completed development hacking the best manner.

However, at the moment I received’t simply present you nice examples, I’ll additionally provide you with a easy, Four-step course of which you can observe to try to apply development hacking in your personal enterprise.

Step 1: Ensure you create a product folks really need

You’d assume that is apparent for any firm, proper?

Properly, again within the day, you might typically get away with a mediocre product, if you happen to simply marketed it sufficient.

For instance, Coca Cola launched a number of different tender drinks over time, like Sprite or Fanta.  Most of them didn’t style nearly as good as Coke.


However, by way of in depth (and costly) promoting, they made them well-liked and now they litter the drink aisle at grocery shops, alongside Coke itself.

Doing immediately can be a lot more durable, as phrase a few new product spreads extraordinarily shortly.

In case your product is dangerous, the world will comprehend it quicker than you’ll be able to think about.

This phenomenon is also called a sh*tstorm. Instance: When United Airways employees had been seen passing baggage to 1 one other by throwing it round, in 2009, they ended up breaking a buyer’s guitar.

They admitted to doing it, however refused to compensate the man for his loss.

The outcome? Not one, however three songs, together with movies, about crappy United Airways service.

The primary one has gathered 15 million (!) views to this point:

Fairly dangerous PR for United. In case your product sucks, it could actually disappear in much less time than it took you to construct it.

What’s the answer to this? Suggestions.

It’s important to get your product on the market, as quick as doable, to start out accumulating suggestions and hold bettering it regularly.

I discovered this lesson the exhausting means. Once we began KISSmetrics, we used all of our funding to construct the product.

It took us a yr to construct it and once we launched it – we discovered that our prospects had been proud of the metrics their social networks have been already providing.

Not good.

2 Steps that you will need to take to make sure that your product hits the goal

Right here’s the way to do it the proper approach:

1. Begin by asking and answering questions, not by creating a product.

We did this with Loopy Egg. Folks had been coming to us with questions about buyer conduct. They mentioned: “We’re spending all this money on advertising, but we don’t actually know what the customers are doing, where they are clicking, what their behavior is.”

Solely then, did we begin digging deeper into the subject and excited about making a product that solves that drawback. We didn’t simply develop a product that “felt like a great idea”.

2. As quickly as you might have an thought, begin getting suggestions.

Don’t disguise in your basement, develop one thing for six months after which come out, wave it and ask: “What do y’all think?”

Ask for suggestions instantly.

Think about that a buddy tells you about an issue along with her firm, over dinner. Collectively, you sketch out an answer to it on a serviette.

The second you’ve that sketch, you may present it to different individuals.

We pushed out the primary model of Loopy Egg after solely a month to begin amassing suggestions. Then, every month, we launched an improved model.

Because of our fast launch and fixed assortment of suggestions, we had an honest product after solely 6 months, which clients have been glad to pay for.

Not solely that, however the press and buzz created from releasing the updates publiclyhelped us  to create a ready record of 10,000 individuals, by the point we launched Loopy Egg.

One other instance of an organization who positively nailed the suggestions half is Instagram.

instagram growth

Initially the founders dabbled with a social community app referred to as Burbn, for whiskey drinkers. They realized that essentially the most used characteristic of the app was their photograph sharing mechanism.

Solely then, did they start images apps, which they thought was a saturated market already.

Speaking backwards and forwards with customers, they finally realized that for all apps on the market, sharing photographs was both too difficult or not the principle function of the app.

They merely took the most effective components of all of the apps they knew, like Hipstamatics photograph filters and Burbn’s method of sharing, eliminated every little thing else and, voila, an amazing app everybody already needed was born.

instagram 1.0

Mix this with sensible timing (Instagram launched concurrently the iPhone Four) and you know the way they acquired 25,000 installs on their first day, reaching one million customers inside 2 months.

Validate your concept to ensure it doesn’t utterly fall flat

One other a part of making a terrific product: Validate your product thought.

Desire a sure-fire option to know that individuals need what you’re about to create?

Ask them to pay for it.

If you wish to create an app that exhibits folks one of the best tea spots on the town and you already know it’ll price you $1000 to develop, getting $20 from 50 mates (or $50 from 20 pals) would remedy that growth price downside for you.

And, you’ll be 100% certain that:

  1. Your folks need you to make the app (and so probably different persons are all in favour of it as nicely)
  2. You’re not losing plenty of your personal cash, if it doesn’t pan out

It may appear counter-intuitive to ask for cash earlier than you’ve got a product.

However, if you consider it, you’re paying prematurely for issues on a regular basis.

Film tickets, flights, live shows, occasions, gymnasium memberships, and, and, and…

You pay for all these items, whether or not you find yourself going or not.

Validating your product is even higher – in some circumstances, as a result of you possibly can simply give again the cash, should you don’t find yourself constructing it.

Writer Ryan Vacation bought over 2,000 copies of his e-book “The Obstacle is The Way”, prematurely, paying for his oatmeal in the course of the time he wrote the e-book and ensuring that it could be successful as soon as launched.

Need one other instance of a profitable validation? How about AirBnB?


The thought was born out of a necessity. The founders, Joe and Brian, couldn’t pay their lease. So, they thought they’d hire out three air mattresses on the ground of their condominium to generate profits.

When three individuals confirmed up, every of whom paid them $80 for a single evening, they thought: “Hm, this might be worth exploring more.”

As soon as they launched at South by Southwest (SXSW), they stored getting bookings, however only some, making them about $200 per week.

However, they knew the curiosity was there. All they needed to do was to truly enhance the product.

Put out free content material you probably have no thought

For those who don’t have an thought, simply begin without cost.

Create a weblog or Youtube channel and present content material across the area of interest that you simply need to construct your enterprise in.

That is the only strategy to study what folks like and dislike, what they need and wish and it’s an amazing channel to get suggestions in your concepts.

What’s extra, as you’ve seen, in case you acquire electronic mail addresses, you possibly can even construct an viewers of keen and constant followers, who can’t wait till you truly launch a product.

You are able to do so by freely giving an e book, growing a quiz or arising with an electronic mail sequence or a set of cool movies.

Give individuals the prospect to get entry to a few of your greatest content material, in trade for his or her e-mail handle and also you’ll immediately begin constructing an viewers.

That is by far the simplest and completely risk-free method to begin a enterprise in 2015.

Okay, let’s assume you will have an concept and also you’ve already validated it.

Subsequent, lets take a look at how one can keep away from among the errors that AirBnB made, stalling their preliminary progress.

Step 2: Don’t goal all people

Guess who AirBnB’s goal buyer was, at first?

Everybody who traveled.

Simply take a look at their preliminary three clients, those renting their air mattresses: a 30-year-old Indian man, a 35-year-old lady from Boston and a 45-year-old father of 4 from Utah.

The place is the intersection? What connects these folks? What do they share?

You see, there’s a life cycle that each new and revolutionary product should stay via. It’s referred to as the regulation of diffusion of innovation and it appears like this:


(Picture supply: Wikipedia)

So as to attain nearly all of individuals, your product should first efficiently move by innovators and early adopters.

These are small teams and communities that should be explicitly focused. Geoffrey Moore has written a complete e-book about this phenomenon, referred to as “Crossing the Chasm”.

Merchandise both captivate the primary 15% of the market or they go to die there.

In case your goal buyer is “everyone,” there’s no method to progress hack by way of these first 15%, since you don’t even know who to persuade to purchase.

And, how do you get this proper?

Goal the small minority of people that will get probably the most out of your product

You must create a buyer profile. Take into account all points of your product. Then ask your self:

Who would get the utmost profit from our product?

Be particular. Describe an actual particular person, as greatest as potential.

If Dropbox have been to inform you about their best preliminary buyer, they’d in all probability say one thing like:

A 22-year previous white male, who’s tech-savvy, lives in San Francisco or the Bay Space, is skinny, has only some actually good mates, wears XYZ model garments and spends most of his time on-line.

That’s how detailed you have to be.

And, to start with, you really wish to cater solely to these individuals’s wants.

Conventional merchandise, like books printed with a conventional writer, must create a number of buzz earlier than they even launch, with a view to guarantee that the launch is profitable.

With a contemporary software program product, what occurs earlier than the launch isn’t practically as essential as what occurs after the launch.

Dropbox didn’t throw an enormous invite-only launch occasion. They only launched to the general public at TechCrunch50, in 2008.

Their a lot smarter transfer was to make the service invite-only after the launch.

Intelligent, huh?

They launched it at an occasion the place their splendid clients gathered yearly after which created an aura of exclusivity across the product.

Individuals trying to be part of the service wanted an invitation from present customers to get in. Since everybody wished to know what Dropbox was about and the way it labored, the ready record shortly blew up.

However, thriller virtually at all times brings skepticism together with it. So, so as to give potential customers an concept of what Dropbox was about, they made a brief demo video.

They custom-tailored that video to the customers of Digg, a very fashionable social information community on the time. Once more, the customers have been all their perfect targets: web geeks, techies and nerds.

Drew Houston, one of many founders, positioned about 12 inside jokes all through the presentation. Inside 24 hours, the video had 10,000 diggs (=likes), the phrase unfold like wildfire and their ready checklist jumped from 5,000 to 75,000 customers.

Unique Dropbox Demo:

In comparison with spending $300 per acquisition for a $99 product on Google Adwords, this gave the impression to be the higher technique for them, and – they now have 400 million customers.

Some of these development jumps are essential, within the early days of a startup, in an effort to push by way of the 15% market share boundary that’s wanted for the product to take off.

Right here’s one other nice instance of spreading the phrase in your group: Hotmail.

In case you’re a Gmail consumer, Hotmail appears old-fashioned and also you’ve most likely lengthy forgotten it, however, since being acquired by Microsoft, they’ve grown to over 400 million customers.Gmail solely beat them three years in the past.

What did they do to get purchased out by Microsoft within the first place? Develop. Quick.

When debating advertising and marketing choices, like billboards, their investor had an concept. Why not simply put an indication on the finish of every e-mail despatched by way of them, saying “PS: I love you. Get your free e-mail at Hotmail”?

It was positively value a attempt to it elevated signups to three,000 per day, doubling their consumer base inside 6 months – from 500,000 to 1 million.

After that, progress grew to become even sooner – simply 5 weeks later, they counted 2 million customers.


(having 12 million customers is fairly good – particularly if meaning each fifth particular person on the web)

By maintaining the ‘ask to share’ inside their system, they made certain that they hit the proper goal group.

Hotmail electronic mail customers despatched emails to their buddies, who had been prone to be just like them, and subsequently, additionally excellent prospects.

Uber did the identical factor. They waited a full yr for the favored competition South by Southwest (SXSW), to provide out free rides to hipsters and techies, selling their service, as an alternative of counting on advertisements.

Okay, so you realize who to focus on initially, however as soon as all the innovators and early adopters know and love your product, what’s subsequent?

I’m glad you requested.

Step three: Go viral

It’s time to drag out the massive weapons. Going viral is completely different than concentrating on everybody, although.

This step simply means tapping into larger methods, larger person bases and leveraging the attain of fellow merchandise, to essentially penetrate nearly all of the market.

You’re nonetheless concentrating on your splendid clients, however you’re increasing to platforms the place everyone seems to be current.

Let’s persist with Dropbox, for a second, to see how they did this. The exact same mechanism continues to be in place immediately:


Free house! The product turns into higher for you, the extra folks you get to hitch.

It is a excellent mechanism for any piece of software program to have.

Now, you’ll not solely invite your closest mates since you assume Dropbox is cool, you’ll invite everybody you realize, to get extra space.

Groupon, similar concept, totally different implementation:


Refer a buddy, get $10 in credit score.

Incentives for every consumer to get extra individuals on the platform are a great way to kickstart your viral advertising and marketing marketing campaign, however letting your product market itself is even higher.

Apple did so they usually made good use of it of their ads, as properly. Keep in mind the favored iPod adverts ,with the black silhouettes and the white headphones?


(these advertisements have been in every single place from 2004-2008)

By making their headphones white, Apple made certain that everybody would acknowledge them. All headphones have been normally black, so by tweaking this function, they turned all of their prospects into strolling ads.

Need one other instance?

WordPress isn’t solely powering 25% of all web sites on-line, however it’s additionally free. The free model has a catch, although.

Your area will all the time present up as

Everybody who visits your free WordPress weblog will immediately know that it’s a WordPress web site.

However, let’s speak about an much more highly effective progress hack.

The ability of integrations and embeds

Everybody’s darling, Fb, used embeds as an early progress hack, to make it possible for they hit their goal of buying 200 million new customers in a single 12 months.

They gave customers the choice to present that they’re on Fb somewhere else, like their blogs, web sites and in boards, by creating totally different badges for them to embed.

The badges are nonetheless round in the present day…


This created billions of impressions, a whole bunch of tens of millions of clicks and hundreds of thousands of signal ups every month.

And, this isn’t the one big utilizing this technique. Ever tried to share a YouTube video in your weblog?

They make embedding movies tremendous simple, so numerous folks do it.

This works, not solely as a result of they create the complete code and spotlight it for you, so that you simply must press Cmd+C (or Ctrl+C, when you’re on Home windows) after which paste it into your editor, but in addition as a result of YouTube movies are very shareable.


We additionally wished folks to embed their knowledge from Loopy Egg – not a good suggestion.


What firm needs to indicate their site visitors, clicks, income numbers and conversions?


However, guess who desires to share the most recent humorous cat video they discovered? Everybody!

Professional tip: Give folks a purpose to dig deeper into your embeds. The YouTube participant routinely performs the following video, or offers you a collection of associated movies, on the finish of every video, which makes it extremely seemingly you’ll really swap to YouTube, after watching an embedded video.

Whenever you resolve on whether or not you wish to make your product embeddable or not, make sure that prospects have a motive to embed, that it’s simple to do and that you simply entice them to dig deeper into your embed.

There’s something that’s much more highly effective than embeds, although, particularly when you get it proper: integrations.

Do you know that if folks can signal as much as your service, utilizing one among their already current accounts on Fb, Twitter or Google, that this will improve sign-ups as much as 50%?

Integrating your service to work seamlessly with one other may give you very quick access to hundreds of thousands of potential clients.

PayPal was struggling to get a foot within the door with nearly all of the market. Few retailers really provided them as an choice.

However, as soon as they landed a take care of Ebay and had been provided as an possibility, proper subsequent to Visa and Mastercard, the floodgates opened.

payments paypal

(Picture supply: Funds Information)

Finally, Ebay acquired them, for $1.5 billion in 2002.

A steal, contemplating PayPal is now value about $10 billion greater than Ebay. Having one highly effective integration was sufficient.

However, PayPal and Fb are outdated information, what about some newer startups?

Integrations work simply as nicely immediately. Solely now, corporations like Fb and PayPal are those you need to combine with.

Like Spotify did.

musicpeak=”348″ />


Integrating with Fb was a really focused transfer. Fb was already a platform for sharing pursuits, particularly music (within the type of movies, for instance).

Spotify simply made the expertise higher. By displaying what your pals listened to, within the app and within the Fb stream, folks began to find the app.

“Tom’s listening to Jay-Z on Spotify.”

“Hmm, I wonder what that is, let me check it out. Oh, free streaming, awesome!”

And, increase, Spotify had one other person (that’s precisely how they received me, by the best way).

As with embeds, make it possible for your integration is smart for the customers, in order that each events profit.

AirBnB didn’t, which is why their progress hack finally stopped working. Fortunate for them, they didn’t want it any extra, at that time.

Once they began creating their listings, they actually wished to faucet into Craigslist’shuge community. However, Craigslist didn’t make their API public, so the AirBnB guys needed to create a really tough technical answer.

Finally, they made it work and folks might cross-post their AirBnB listings with one easy click on:



On the time, round 50 million (!) distinctive customers used Craigslist every month. The listings went on to get huge publicity, resulting in the largest interval in AirBnB person progress.



However, it wasn’t a really, ahem, endorsed process and in no way sanctioned by Craigslist. Finally, they needed to discontinue the combination.


(Picture Supply: Fast Sprout)

One other idea much like embeds and integrations could be “Powered by badges”.


(I talked about this final yr in Vienna)

These require a number of testing and optimizing, although, because it’s inconceivable to know what works immediately.

For instance, with KISSmetrics we discovered that “Analytics by…” labored significantly better than “Powered by…”

Integrations, embeds and badges are definitely amongst your greatest bets for going viral and getting a large enough chunk of the marketplace for your product to turn into a success.

Nonetheless, these examples are extra concepts than “copy this” schemes.

You see, progress hacks normally cease working pretty rapidly, as increasingly corporations begin exploiting them.

So, as an alternative of attempting to repeat these examples, one after the other, attempt to get into the correct mindset to see untapped alternatives and new methods so that you can use comparable techniques to market your product.

Step Four: Enhance your product constantly

Iterate, iterate, iterate.


As a result of, even with thousands and thousands of customers, it takes most startups years to develop into worthwhile.

That is both as a result of their product just isn’t that costly, or as a result of they wait too lengthy to cost clients.

Anomalies, like Birchbox, who’re quickly making $125 million in revenues yearly, with solely $12 million in funding, are actually simply that – anomalies.

It’s surprising that solely 20% of corporations make retaining prospects a spotlight, when it’s confirmed that promoting to present prospects is far simpler.

They’re 50% extra seemingly to purchase once more from you than new clients.

Twitter confronted this downside, early on. They received thousands and thousands of customers in a short time, however theyweren’t really utilizing the service.

It’s because the perceived worth of your product rises and falls with the onboarding course of.

Think about signing up for a service, getting a welcome electronic mail, however receiving no directions on use it after which by no means listening to from them once more.

A reasonably dangerous expertise, proper?

I wouldn’t come again, both.

As soon as new Twitter customers signed up, they had been left alone at midnight. When Twitter modified this, engagement went up immensely.

That is the way it occurred:


When signing up, Twitter prompted customers to comply with 5-10 individuals on their very own.

When you spend 10 minutes discovering a number of pals or celebrities on Twitter and also you begin to comply with them, you’ve already invested time into the product, which makes it more likely that you simply’ll return.

It’s solely pure that when you “follow” somebody, you really wish to check out them and see what’s new.

Uber continuously improves its service, as nicely. Listed below are a number of the experiments that they’ve already run:

  • Uber Ice Cream on demand
  • roses for Valentine’s day on demand
  • barbecue in Texas on demand
  • rides in a DeLorean in San Francisco
  • UberCHOPPER helicopter rides to the Hamptons
  • partnership with the NFL to advertise protected rides for NFL gamers

When you’ve gotten huge, consumer expertise is a large a part of your product’s success. That’s why corporations, like Apple and Fb, spend hours discussing fonts, colours and button sizes.

By no means cease bettering.

In any other case, nature, or, on this case the market, will train you that lesson the onerous method.

There’s a great quote about this concept of fixed enchancment:

By no means cease studying, as a result of life by no means stops educating.

So, don’t simply take a “once and done” method to development hacking. What comes after the expansion is simply as necessary, if you wish to create a sustainable enterprise.


It took Fb eight years to achieve a $50 billion valuation. That type of progress was unprecedented. It was historic…

Till Uber reached the identical valuation in 5 years.

I can already hear you making excuses.

“These growth hacks won’t work any more.”

“This doesn’t apply to my industry.”

I don’t need to hear it.

Development hacking isn’t a set technique.

It’s a mindset.

I hope this information helped you to amass it. I would like you to begin considering like I do, like different development hackers do.

Let this information be your start line.

Listed below are the Four steps, once more, which you could take:

  1. Just be sure you create a product individuals really need, by:
    • Placing out free content material in your area of interest
    • Asking and answering inquiries to get good concepts
    • Immediately amassing suggestions round your concepts
    • Validating your concepts by getting prospects earlier than totally constructing the answer
  2. Goal solely a small area of interest market and:
    • Make it an unique expertise for them
    • Assist them unfold the phrase inside their neighborhood
  3. Go viral by:
    • Incentivizing the sharing of your product (it ought to develop into higher with extra customers)
    • Letting your product promote itself
    • Tapping into different corporations’ present clients, with integrations, embeds and badges
  4. Maintain bettering your product by:
    • Continually iterating and releasing updates
    • Testing each element
    • Optimizing the onboarding course of

The place are you within the development hacking course of proper now? Let me know the place you at the moment are and the way you’ll take the following step.